Producer Law Bun and director Yeung Kuen both passed away in May. The behind-the-scenes contributions to Hong Kong cinema made by the two consummate filmmakers are immeasurable. The Hong Kong Film Archive (HKFA)'s "Special Matinee" series in September will show four works by Law and Yeung to acknowledge their remarkable legacy.
"Special Matinee - A Tribute to Producer Law Bun and Director Yeung Kuen" will show Law's productions "The Green-eyed Lady" (1967), with Suet Nei as a swordswoman, and "Adventure in Fishing Harbour" (1967), with Kenneth Tsang playing his first villainous role, as well as Yeung's debut work "Flying Corpse on a Foggy Night" (1958-59) and his teen movie "The Drummer" (1983), starring Leslie Cheung. The films will be shown on September 7, 14, 21 and 28 respectively at 11am at the Cinema of the HKFA.
Born in Macau, Law Bun (1923-2012) was brought up in Shanghai. He moved to Hong Kong in 1950 and established his publishing and newspaper business. Spurred on by the phenomenal success of the trilogy "The Secret Book" and with co-financing by Mui Hong-nee, Law took the leap into filmmaking and co-founded the Hong Kong Film Company with his wife Ho Lai-lai. More than 40 titles were made during the prolific decade that followed, with the majority being adaptations from bestsellers published by the savvy producer. The studio's varied and impressive filmography features critical and popular successes such as "The Azure Blood and The Golden Pin" (1963), "The Mighty Snow Sword" (1964), "The Ghost with Six Fingers" (1965) and "Paragon of Sword and Knife" (1967), which ushered in the new-school wuxia genre; the comedies "One Queen and Three Kings" (1963) and "Old Master" (1965) and its sequels; and the spy thriller series "The Black Musketeer 'F'" (1966).
Combining innovative spirit with meticulous filmmaking, the couple spared no expense or effort to create grandeur and stunning special effects with an array of sets, props and wardrobe pieces. Law was also instrumental in nurturing a generation of gifted, home-grown talents who later rose to prominence: directors Chan Lit-bun and Law Chi, and fledgling screen stars Suet Nei and Kenneth Tsang. He passed away at the age of 89 in Vancouver, from kidney failure, on May 21.
"The Green-eyed Lady" features myriad plot elements that are found in the canon of the wuxia film - seizing treasures, contesting for supremacy, settling blood debts and duelling for honour and glory. Suet Nei plays "The Green-eyed Lady" and falls in love with "Golden-armed Scholar" Kenneth Tsang. The revamped image of Suet Nei's swordswoman with an unusual ensemble of outfits and rebellious locks brings a modern dose of eccentricity to her character.
"Adventure in Fishing Harbour" is an engrossing mix of chivalry, action and melodrama, with scenic Taiwan locations. It is also a film that the original writer Yee Tat described as his best at the time. In his first role as a villain, Kenneth Tsang inhabited an all-evil character, greedy and malicious and forcing himself on his adoptive sister Connie Chan Po-chu.
Yeung Kuen (1931-2012) was interested in filmmaking when he was young. Upon graduation from the Chinese Film School, he and fellow alumni pooled resources to make "Flying Corpse on a Foggy Night". His talents soon caught the attention of renowned director Tu Guangqi, who inducted him into the film industry. The apprentice quickly rose through the ranks of filmmaking from script continuity to serving as deputy to directors Wu Pang, Mok Hong-si and Wong Tin-lam at Tao Yuen Motion Picture.
Yeung directed over 50 films in his three-decade career, setting trends and heralding changes. Yeung possessed a strong creative streak in screenwriting and directing that expressed itself in a gamut of different genres and topics: his works included the wuxia film "Three Encounters" (1969); the erotic film "Lucky Seven" (1970); the comedy "The Country Bumpkin" (1974); the suspense thriller "Enjoy Longevity - 300 Years" (1975); and the youth film "The Drummer". Yeung and his wife lived in blissful retirement in New York. He passed away on May 30 at the age of 81.
On account of all its new faces, Yeung's debut work "Flying Corpse on a Foggy Night" was not released in Hong Kong. A print was salvaged in San Francisco after 50 years, however, and this screening will be its premiere in Hong Kong. The audience will find surprises like the fresh-faced Lam Dan before she was famous; Wang Yuen-lung taking a cameo role in a scene; and, most delightful of all, a smart detective played by newcomer Leung Nai-fai, or Leung Tin, as the long-serving veteran is widely known today. The plot concerns a bank robbery with the gang leader conspiring with his wife to steal the loot.
In the youth musical "The Drummer", Leslie Cheung plays an aspiring jazz drummer who goes to arduous lengths to realise his dreams against all odds and a disapproving father and is rewarded with thunderous applause for his efforts. Not to be missed is the memorable theme song, "Swimming Upstream", sung by Cheung.
"Special Matinee - A Tribute to Producer Law Bun and Director Yeung Kuen" is guest curated by film researcher Yuen Tsz-ying.
All films are in Cantonese without subtitles.
Tickets priced at $20 are available at URBTIX outlets. Half-price tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Credit card bookings can be made at 2111 5999 or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Detailed programme information can be obtained in the leaflet being distributed at all performance venues of the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. For enquiries, please browse the website at www.lcsd.gov.hk/CE/CulturalService/filmprog/english/2011mm/2011mm_film.html or call 2739 2139 or 2734 2900.
Ends/Monday, August 27, 2012
A film still from "The Green-eyed Lady" (1967).
A film still from "Adventure in Fishing Harbour" (1967).
A film still from "Flying Corpse on a Foggy Night" (1958-59).
Film stills from "The Drummer" (1983).